Flat Bar VS Drop Bar- Find The Right One

There is a lot of debate in the cycling community about whether or not to use flat handlebars or drop handlebars. Most bikers strongly prefer one type of handlebar over the other, and they tend to push for their favorite. People who aren’t used to riding bikes can make it more difficult to pick a new one.

How about this: So, which type of handlebar would be best for your needs among “Flat Bar VS Drop Bar”?

Here, I’ll explain the differences between the flat bar and drop-bar handlebars. I’ll also talk about the pros and cons of each and which riding style and terrain each bar is best for. Then you should figure out which of these common types will work best for you. Let’s start with the most important things.

What are flat bars?

flat bars
Photo Credit- Markus Spiske

A flat bar is a bike handlebar that goes across the front of the bike so that you can steer it level. There are no cruiser handlebars that bend toward the rider or away for different steering. This bar doesn’t do either of these things, though.

There are still many different ways to design a flat handlebar, though. The flat bars that are rod-like and completely straight across are called “flat bars.” Angled towards the rider, they can also make it more comfortable for the riding person. Some people use stem extenders to make their handlebars taller. And sometimes, there is a mix of flat bars and handlebars with a little curved back. At the widest point, flat bars are about two feet long.

What are drop bars?

drop bars
Photo Credit- Mateusz Dach

These are drop bars. They have a flat area in the middle and two curved bends on each side that go forward and down. There are a lot of different hand positions with drop bar brakes than there are with flat bars.

There are many different types of drop bars, but for this post, I’ll be talking about a simple drop bar.

They’re called drop bars because they give the rider three places to put their hands: the tops, the hoods, and the drops. This makes them look more sophisticated. Most drop bars are 16 to 18 inches wide, which is much smaller than flat bars.

Many people also think that drop bars look better than normal bars.

Flat Bar Advantages

Better control

Flat bars give you more control when you’re trying to turn a corner or get through a lot of traffic because they’re long. With the brake levers right in front of your hands, you can make quick decisions without having to move your hands. Brake levers that are easy to reach can make a big difference in not dealing with an emergency.

More space

As long as the handlebars are, there is more room for you to put all of your things on. This includes lights, bells, baskets, GPS devices, and bigger handlebar bags for people going on long trips.

Easier to maintain

It is more common for flat bars to be used than for other bars to be used. This means that any parts you’d need to fix or replace are cheaper and easier to get. This is great news for cyclists who use their bikes touring in places where it would be hard to get parts for their bikes.

Flat bars also make it easier to change your brake cable because you don’t have to unwrap any tape. Bar tape wears out, but flat bar grips last a long time. All of this adds to flat bars being a more economical choice if you’re on a tight budget.

Comfort and visibility

To avoid straining your back, arms, shoulders, and neck because you don’t have to reach forward and hold a stretched position while riding, the flat bars are placed.

This also makes you more visible. There is no need for you to try to keep your neck up while your body is bent forward.

Flat Bar Disadvantages

Only one hand position

Having only one place to put your hands can make it hard to go on long rides without straining your hands or making them numb. As a result, flat bars can be changed if this is a problem for you. Bar ends can be added, and more space can be made for your hands to move. In another post, we’ve also talked about cycling gloves that can help with numb hands.

Wider and less efficient

Flat bars take up a lot of space, which is a trade-off for better steering. This can be hard even when you’re moving through small spaces and traffic.

Decreased speed

Your body acts like a sail when you ride in this more upright position. This means that you lose the aerodynamic advantage you might have had if you had dropped handlebars. When you hit speeds of at least 9 mph, this extra air resistance comes into play. Slower average speeds make it less noticeable when you are moving around more.

Limited pedal power

It’s also hard to climb hills when you can’t move your weight as far forward, which makes it more difficult. Flat bar bikes are slower to ride in general, so don’t expect to go very fast.

Drop Bar Advantages

More hand positions

Drop bars give you more options when it comes to where your hands should be when you play. You can change up your grip by holding on to the tops, drops, or hoods of your bike. This helps you keep your hands loose, reduces stress, and allows you to stretch your fingers while riding. This helps you stay in the saddle longer.

Narrower

Drop bars will make it easier for you to get through city traffic when you are riding your bike to work or school every morning. The handlebars are the widest part of any bike, so the less space they take up, the easier it will be to get by.

Aerodynamic

You become more aerodynamic when you bend your body forward to reach your drop bars. This makes it easier for you to fight against wind resistance and helps you go faster downhill, especially when you’re going downhill. This way, you’ll be able to reach top speeds when you ride.

Hill climbing

Drop bars let you move your body weight forward and give you more power when pedal. To make things even better, this means you can add more power to each rotation. A drop bar helps you go faster on both the way down a hill and when you’re climbing one.

Drop Bar Disadvantages

Less control and visibility

Smaller drop handlebars give you less control, which is not good. It’s more difficult to make quick turns when you put more weight on your hands when you reach them. This is especially noticeable in slow-moving cars and when you’re trying to make very precise turns. So even though the handlebars make it easier to get through traffic, it’s still hard to do so in a safe way. Then, because you’re leaning forward and looking down, your visibility is cut down a lot. If there is a lot of traffic, that’s not ideal.

Brake lever accessibility

Brake levers on these handlebars are usually placed next to the drops. This means that if you’re steering with one of the other two hands, you may have to move your hands before you can hit the brakes. Any time it takes to brake increases the risk of an accident. However, if you don’t have easy access to the brake levers, you can always change and customize them. Others move their brakes to the top bar, while others do both.

Mechanical components and parts

Drop handlebars are only found on unique bikes. It costs more because they have different shifters and levers than flat bar bikes, which can cost up to three times as much. Another thing that makes them less durable is that they break easier, and they’re more difficult to get hold of as well.

In most cases, when you want to change or upgrade the brake and shifter cables on your drop bar bike, you’ll have to remove and replace the bar tape by doing so. Bar tape wears out faster than a flat bar grip.

Less space

It takes at least eight inches less space on drop handlebars to put things like lights and other things on. For a simple light or bell, this might not be a problem. But when you add on top of the already less responsive steering, you might run into problems.

Which type of handlebar has the advantage?

 FlatDrop
Steering control✔️
Cargo space✔️
Ease of maintenance✔️
Rider visibility✔️
Comfort in the saddle✔️
Hand position variety✔️
Navigating tight spaces✔️
Speed/aerodynamics✔️
Power and hill climbing✔️
Quick access to brakes✔️
Flat Bar VS Drop Bar (Comparision)

What to consider when deciding between flat bars and drop bars

When you know the main differences between flat handlebars and drop handlebars, you need to figure out what kind of riding you will do and which parts of these two handlebars are important to you.

Speed

The drop bars will help you if you want to go fast and stay on the bike as long as possible. You can change your grip with them because they keep you in a lower riding position and allow you to do that. Drop bars are the best way to get to high speeds with less effort. If you want to race or go on long drives outside the city, these bikes are perfect.

Handling

If you want to be more in control, flat bars are the best way to do it. In both cities and on trips, this is true. It will be easier to get around busy city streets, carry extra luggage long distances, and find replacement parts more quickly when you have a car.

These rules are made to be broken

As you can see, there are always exceptions to every idea. Some commuters like drop handlebars because they’re narrower, but they usually have wider, gravel-friendly wheels that make the bike more versatile. They also go on bike tours and change their hand positions during the day. They also choose drop bars.

New cyclists should use flat handlebars because they are easier to handle and more comfortable when you first start.

The handlebars on my bike are flat, and I find them very comfortable. It’s better to have an ergonomic grip instead of around one. It’s wider at the ends, giving me more room to rest my palms. It’s more comfortable for me to be upright when I’m riding. With 20 gears to choose from, hills are very easy to climb.

I don’t know. I may give drop bars another try as I keep going on longer rides and go outside of the city limits.

What Kind of Cyclist Should Choose Drop Bars?

You can use drop bars for long-distance on-road riding where you don’t have to turn or brake very often. Riders who keep a speed of more than 15-20 miles per hour will benefit from the drop bars’ aerodynamic benefits the most. They are also great for people who ride for more than an hour or so at a time and need to move their hands around.

In general, not all drop bars are the same. Not all bikes with drop bars are made for speedy road trips. These types of bikes, like touring and gravel bikes, often have drop bars with more relaxed shapes. These designs make you stand up more—many things to choose from.

Drop bars are made up of three measurements:

  1. Reach-This is how far the bar bends.
  2. Drop- This shows how far the drop is from the top bar.
  3. Width- This shows how far apart the drops are.

What Kind of Cyclist Should Choose Flat Bars

Flat bars are great for cyclists who want to be more upright when riding their bikes. This is thought to be more comfortable. Flat bars are also good for people who ride off-road, in areas with a lot of stop-and-go traffic, or areas requiring tight turns on their bikes. Flat bars give you a lot of control and are very quick.

Flat bars aren’t all the same as drop bars. Some have a more aggressive geometry that puts you in a forward-leaning position, but not all of them do. Flat bar road bikes do this. Some flat bars, like riser bars, make you ride very upright.

Other Bicycle Handlebar Options

There are two main types of handlebars: drop bars and flat bars. A lot of bikes come from the shop with one of these two. To make it even more difficult for you, I’ll show you some other popular handlebars below. Some handlebar accessories can help you deal with some of the problems that drop bars and flat bars have. I’ll also show you how to use them.

Clip-on Aero Bars

These can be added to either drop bars or flat bars as an extra. They let you lean over your handlebars and tuck in to be as aerodynamic as possible. You grip aero bars with your hands out in front of you and rest your elbows on the built-in rests.

Most of the time, aero bars help you move more quickly. Rest your hands and wrists, too. Straight ahead, you don’t need to grip the bar. Just put your elbows on the ground and lean on them.

Trekking or Butterfly Bars

These unique bars are kind of like flat bars. The most important thing about trekking bars is that they have a lot of different hand positions because of their unique figure 8 pattern. They also have a lot of room for all the lights, bags, and other things you need in your cockpit. Use the same shifters and brakes as bikes with flat bars.

The main problem with trekking bars is that they are heavier than other handlebars, so they take up more space. There is a simple reason for this: They use more material to make things. Some people also say that they look a little silly.

Bullhorn Bars

These are drop bars with the drop part cut off before bending down. Some types of bullhorns have a bend at the end of them. Use the same shifters and brake levers as bikes with flat bars. Bar-end shifters can also be used.

When you use bullhorn handlebars, you will be able to go faster. They let you hide from the wind. Climbing is also a good thing to do with them. You can get a lot of help climbing a steep hill by gripping the horns. They let you handle the bike. They also look good.

These cars aren’t very good for making many or very small turns. These small bars don’t give you a lot of leverage to steer very well.

Cruiser Handlebars

These are flat bars that bend up and back from the stem. Cruiser bars are made for comfort. They make it possible for you to sit up straight. You put all of your weight on your butt and not on your wrists or hands. If you have pain in your wrists or numbness in your hands, cruiser bars are a good choice. Use the same shifters and brakes as flat bars. Some people like to use these on bikes like my OP Roller when they go to the beach.

Some people don’t like cruiser bars because they make it hard to ride efficiently. You have your chest facing out like a sail, and your arms spread wide. If your seat isn’t soft enough, your butt may get tired quickly when you ride cruiser bars.

Bar Ends

These go on your flat handlebars and give you more places to put your hands. Most people put them on the ends of their bars, angled up and away from the bars. You can make them look different to fit your needs. For example, you can put them in the middle of the bars to make yourself more aerodynamic. If you want to ride like a cruiser, you should angle your feet straight up. Wrap them in bar tape for extra comfort.

I like the Boxer Bar Ends made by Profile Designs. I think they look good. They are made of aluminum and weigh 170 grams, which is a lot less than you might think. They’re about 6 inches long, so they have a lot of room to grip.

H Bars

A mix of flat and cruiser bars is what you’ll get with this set of bars. In the world of bicycle tourism and bikepacking, the H bar is a good choice. They have an extra bar that can be used for different hand positions and extra space for things like GPS, lights, and luggage. You can also use the loop in the bars to keep things. Use the same shifters and brakes as flat bars.

My Handlebar Choice: Drop Bars Vs. Flat Bars

After writing this list, I can say that flat bars are what I like best. Many things are good for me, but many things are bad. In part, I chose to ride flat bars because I grew up riding them, and I don’t feel as at home on drops. Honestly, it’s just a matter of what you like best.

Another big thing for me is the cost. At this point, my money isn’t very big. The fact that replacement parts are cheaper, easier to find, and more likely to work with my set-up is a nice perk to have.

In the past, I’ve had two drop-bar bikes. 2017 Fuji Touring bike: I used to have one of these bikes. Before that, I had a Centurion Ironman Dave Scott bicycle from the 1980s that I used to school on, but now I don’t. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of flat bar bikes. During my childhood, I used to ride BMX bikes and mountain bikes. When I go on long trips, I ride a Schwinn High Sierra from the 1980s that I turned into a touring bike.

Final Thoughts: Drop Bars Vs. Flat Bars

They play a big part in how comfortable and easy it is to ride your bike. Flat bars or drop bars are based on how you ride, where you ride, and what you like. You can choose from a wide variety of handlebars at any time. The hope is that this guide makes it a little easier for you to choose.

Flat Bars Vs. Drop Bars- FAQ

Are flat bars more comfortable than drop bars?

Flat bars are usually more upright than drop bars, which makes it easier to ride than with a flat bar. This is what makes them better than drop bars. Most people say that their main flaw is that without bar extensions, they only have one place for your hands. This can be uncomfortable on long rides.

Are drop down handlebars better?

A lot more aerodynamics comes into play the more quickly you ride your bike. Drop bars let you crouch down and cut down on drag. This position can help you be faster and more efficient. A good thing to have if you’re going down a steep hill, riding a long flat section, or riding into the wind:

Can you convert drop bar to flat bar?

It won’t work with your drop handlebars levers (brakes and shifters), so you’ll need to get a new set up for your new flat handlebars. If you want to set up a mechanical brake system, you’ll first need braking levers. But for road bikes, most use cable brakes.

Are flat bar road bikes good?

People love flat bar road bikes for a good reason. This bike is great for a lot of cyclists because it is both comfortable and efficient. People who ride these bikes don’t have to put their bodies in an overly aggressive position that many people find uncomfortable.

Are drop handlebars bad for your back?

No, they don’t. … There are drop-down handlebars on road bikes, which makes you hunch over and make you more streamlined. Road bikes don’t cause back pain, but if you already have back problems, they can make them even worse!

Can I put drop bars on a mountain bike?

It’s true that you can put drops on any mountain bike. But you shouldn’t! People who ride mountain bikes have a lot more reach than people who ride bikes with drop bars.

Can I put drop bars on my hybrid?

Do you think drop bars can be added to hybrid and mountain bikes? It’s possible, but the process is very expensive and requires a lot of new parts. Also, the fit of the bicycle may change in a bad way. So, it’s not clear if it’s worth it to start such a process.

How long does it take to get used to drop handlebars?

A moderate level of exertion (a perceived exertion level of 6 on a 1 to 10 scale) is what you should start with. After two or three weeks, you should move up to an effort at or just below the lactate threshold (7 or 8). So when you do intervals on an indoor trainer, like when you’re training for an event, you can use the drops to help your body get ready.

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